Former Oulart-The Ballagh and Wexford star reborn after coming out of retirement
Former Oulart-The Ballagh and Wexford camogie star Colleen Clune was the defensive rock upon whom Annacurra built a wonderful 2022 season that culminated in them winning the Wicklow Intermediate title with a storming 2-15 to 2-1 victory over Avondale in Pearse’s Park, Arklow, on Sunday afternoon.
Classy Colleen produced a solid and uplifting performance at full-back over the course of the hour, displaying a sweet first touch and fierce determination that provided the platform for the young soilders out the field to torment a brave ’Dales side who were cursed with injuries before and during the game.
A delighted Colleen adds this crown, her first title in Wicklow, to a sideboard that is crammed with honours of the highest order, and she is hungry for next year when Annacurra get to test themselves against the top sides in the county including the dominant Knockananna who cruised to a three-in-a-row in the Senior decider against Kiltegan.
“I only came back playing last June, 2021. Colin (O’Driscoll) caught me at a very weak moment. He rang me on a Tuesday, and I knew the phonecall was coming and I thought I knew in my head that I wouldn’t be going back. It couldn’t be possible with four children, not a hope.
“But I went straight upstairs, got my boots and went to training that Tuesday night and I never looked back. I got the bug back straight away and I couldn’t believe how much it did for me, coming back, in every sense.
“I hadn’t played for six years. I retired in 2015. We (Oulart-The Ballagh) had just won our second All-Ireland club and I knew that day in March that I was finished. I had had Kate Marie and I knew that she needed time and I needed to be there. I’ve had three children since,” said Colleen.
The first year back ended in disappointment following defeat to Carnew Emmets in the final but under Colin O’Driscoll’s guidance and with complete dedication and sheer determination they came back with renewed hope and belief in 2022.
“I played the championship in 2021. We got beaten by Carnew here in the final, but I was totally coming back again, and we were going to win,” she said.
Unbeaten all year, Colleen said that Annacurra desperately wanted a good start to give them the chance to hurl to the level they are capable of. The quality defender dealt with the first dangerous ball that arrived in with ruthless efficiency, something she had visualised earlier in the week.
“We were always focusing on the first 10 minutes. We knew that if we could put the pressure on that we could, not sit back a bit, but we knew that we could hurl like we could with the pressure off.
“I kind of had to (deal with that first ball). Caitlin (Olohan) was in on me, and that kind of threw me a bit. I kind of had a feeling about it coming up to the match. I had been doing a bit of visualising about it.
“I knew they had to throw something into the mix, especially when they were missing Lauren (O’Reilly), and I just said that if it happens, I have to get the first ball and thankfully I did. It took the pressure off. I knew I was able to catch her and just be with her. The legs are not there. I’m 39 now, but the head is there, and that’s all I needed: first ball. Even my father rang me this morning and he was saying, “first ball, first ball”.
It was abundantly clear what this win meant to Colleen who was surrounded by her family and friends in the immediate aftermath and while ranking this achievement with her treasure trove of titles over the years would be silly, she took a moment to reflect on those golden years while also appreciating what her return to camogie has given her.
“I was so lucky to be on the teams that we had (in Wexford), phenomenal teams, both club and county. And we probably could have won a lot more, but look, I’m very grateful for what we have,” she said.
“I am (reborn). I can’t tell you what coming back playing camogie has done for me. With Covid, four young children at home, it was tough. Camogie was my little outing, and I cherished every moment of going. And I don’t miss training, I do not miss training.
“And Colin (O’Driscoll), I don’t know what kind of buzz he was able to put into it to make me want to (go back) but I was totally invested. Anyone who missed training, they could text me and I’d go meet them. I’d bring the children and we’d go meet them and we’d puck around,” she said.
Annacurra step up to Senior next year. Colleen aims to be back and has no doubts that Annacurra will be up there with the best of them.
“Oh God yeah. We’ll hold our own. I’m really looking forward to it. There’s nothing that we can’t overcome with the teams that are out there now. It’s a really exciting time,” she said.